As a foreign buyer of indie films released on online film distribution platforms, I can't help but notice that there are a few things that filmmakers and producers usually forget when they release their films online. Here are 3 pieces of advice for indie filmmakers and producers who think about online film distribution.
1. Release your film worldwide
Living in France, I could not be more angry at filmmakers that release their films on "selected territories". Trust me, if your film is indie enough, it will never be released in France so you might as well make it available in Europe. What I want is watch your film right away and not wait for some probable release in France two years later on 5 screens across the country. What is the point of releasing your film online if it is to give it the same limitations of a traditional distribution deal? That is nonsense but it could also just be a mistake. This year, I really wanted to see "A bird of the air" on Vimeo on Demand but it was only for Australian viewers. I kindly asked the distributor through Vimeo if they could lift this limitation and the film is now available for 168 countries, including France. Kudos to them and that is also what you should do. There is a big world of viewers outside of United States of America you know.
2. Do not forget subtitles.
This is linked to the first piece of advice. Yes, there is a big world of viewers out there and the minimum to do for them is to provide at least English subtitles. The importance of subtitles should not be overlooked. I consider myself being a good English speaker but I don't like when I cannot hear properly what the characters are saying, especially if the sound quality is not good (that happens in indie films). English subtitles would make me not skip some dialogues and it is an investment worth considering. If you want to go all the way, put French subtitles as well. That happened for "Some girl(s)" when it was released in June 2013 and that was really appreciated.
3. Do not overprice your film.
Some films on online distribution platforms are charging $4-$10 for a film that can only be watched during the next three days, like regular VOD platforms are doing. Do not do that. Keep the price low, allow your viewers to watch them again and again over a long period of time. The best example of that was "Five dates" that charges $2 for a quality film and a rental period of a year. A customer is likely to prefer a good film that costs a few bucks than an ok-film that cost $6. If I want to spend $10 on a film, I'd rather go in my movie theatre. So do not overprice, keep it low and you will sell more. I know, it's your film, your baby, you probably want to sell it at the right price but no offense, you cannot be the best judge to evaluate your work. Leave that to viewers and allow them to do so by keeping a low price.
Another interesting way of doing is the one used by Shane Bissett for "This time tomorrow". People can buy it directly from him using a pay-what-you-want system that is very neat and surprisingly not-so developed for films. And the film turns out to be great so it's a win-win situation for everyone.
I guess what I wanted to convey with this article is to show that there are people in the world who are dying to see your work. Online distribution is a great idea but it should not become another overpriced limited release provider for English-only speakers. Think about it when releasing your films!
FilmsdeLover.com is a French website exclusively dedicated to romance films, may they be dramas or comedies. We love this genre and we talk and write about them all the time on our website. And sometimes, we write in English as well. Feel free to contact us if you have got a romantic film you would like us to talk about and review.